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May 28, 2011



The Mimamsa folk would never agree with that. There the sound is integral to the meaning, 'go' is cowhood, the word was uttered by Brahman and the pale interloper that grazes the meadow is merely a feeble instantiation.

I had a curious experience of translation with respect to yourself. On this 8.9" computer I thought I was clicking on your name on a blog roll but instead read the story of an academic who had been invited to a Logos (Templeton) conference (Revelation, Authority and Canon) in Notre Dame. Why not, I thought, there should be someone to ply the bladder. It showed an admirable willingness to boldly go. But you've been there and undergone that. Your story Midwest Peace is very good. Impact of Philosophy, quite! If you had used your full name Justin Erik Halldor Underwood Smith it would not have gone so well. For my next witness I call Jehu Smith. One done tom turkey.


Well, the trouble with interlinguistic homophonic translation is that the thing it conserves and renders accessible to readers of another language was already accessible to them! I can sound out Romanian or Icelandic even though I can't understand them at all. So a homophonic translation into English of Romanian or Icelandic poetry, if you could somehow manage it, wouldn't give me anything of the original that I can't have without it.

Also, it would seem to me that most of the progress we could make on creating homophonic English sentences would depend on homophonic words. (Weak example that occurred to me a couple of weeks ago while using a hand auger, aka 'plumber's snake', to try to unclog my kitchen drain: This hand augurs ill. This hand auger's ill.) Building homophonic sentences out of homophonic words isn't nearly as excellent as what French permitted the Oulipans to do.


Hi Justin,

I just saw your post, which was forwarded to me by a friend. Fun stuff! If you haven't already, you should definitely look up the book "Mots D'heures Gousse Rames," which is (as you might expect) a collection of Mother Goose rhymes in the homophonic "translation" that you describe. Indeed, dozens of our childhood poems (e.g., "Humpty Dumpty", "Hickory Dickory Dock") are all "translated" homophonically into French. They are worth a read -- either to be viewed as an impressive display of literary talent, or to be shown off as a fun text for bilingual dinner guests.





I should also mention that that book is actually annotated with tongue-in-cheek footnotes that try to explain the nonsensical French meanings. The text is presented as an authentic manuscript, and so coming up with explanations for the syntax/obscure vocabulary is where the fun comes in!

Ray Davis

I must patriotically point out that America's own Louis Zukofsky beat the OuLiPods to the game, writing homophonic versions of the Book of Job, a Plautus play, and, oddly enough, the complete works of Catullus, and inspiring a separate tradition of experiment which includes this homophonic/ilic Iliad: http://english.utah.edu/eclipse/projects/AIDA/aida.html

Lex Armero


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